We live in Sissathanark District of Vientiane Capital city of Laos. This district is home for many foreign embassies (e.g., Australia, Singapore, etc.), ex-patriates and high-level government families. It is also home of hard working local Lao families with limited discretionary incomes.
Within one-half kilometer from the Chinaimo, Clock Tower roundabout is the Chomphet Lower Secondary School. Barbara had visited the school this past July. I visited the school for the first time a week ago in November with Barbara and her friends.
Just off an unpaved road about four blocks from the school is the main Thadeua Road that leads to the center of Vientiane Capital about six kilometers away in one direction and the Friendship (Mittaphab) Bridge that takes you to Thailand about twenty minutes away.
The school is a city public school. It’s a lower middle school which covers grades 6, 7, 8 and 9 in hte USA. The Lao call it lower middle school, grades 1, 2, 3 and 4. The school setting is bucolic. The school sits close to and just below the dirt road in a residential neighborhood. It overlooks a peaceful setting of large trees with a pond just beyond the school property.
I was shocked to see the school’s state of disrepair. I saw broken windows (where the classroom interior is exposed to the weather elements), broken classroom doors (with little security from rowdy kids to loiter and damage classroom furniture), and broken roof tiles and water-stained ceiling tiles (where the rain finds its way into the classroom interior).
I was sorry to see the lack of resource in the school, including the basic, including books, bulletin boards, sports facilities, computers, etc. The soccer goals and basketball backboards were barely discernable.
As the principal and teachers allowed us to tour the facilities, we learned that two rooms were boarded up (because of structural problems), water from the street drained into the classrooms during the rainy seasons, and an exposed raw effluent drain running along side the school grounds. We also learned that the pond overflows into the school grounds during the rainy season.
The principal noted that while attendance is down about 5%, it was agreed that attendance will increase with better school facilities. This is particularly true with the population growth due to the migration of people from the provinces to the city to seek a better life.
While the Women’s International Group (WIG) helped by providing them the materials to buy a functional three-room school, the main school building needs much help, including architecture, civil engineering, funding raising, and construction help.
At this very early stage, we are looking for a civil engineer to check the school foundation and structure as well as the drainage needs. As well, we are looking for a community champion and sponsor to help us with the fundraising efforts.
Stay tuned. We want to help the school.